« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the maritime counties, where a landing was chiefly apprehended, were strengthened by large bodies of troops, drawn from the remote quarters of the kingdom, and every measure adopted which could either gunrd against a disembarkment or impede the enemy's progress and cut them off, if the landing was actually accomplished. On the 20th of May, 1588, the Spanish fleet, commanded by the Duke de Medina Sidonia, set sail from Lisbon, but were forced by stress of weather to put into Corunna, which they did not leave till the 22nd of July.
This vast project was dissipated like a summer's cloud. The English met the invincible Armada with 100 ships of smaller size and 80 fire-ships. The fire-ships attacked them in the night, which threw them into the utmost confusion; an engagement ensued, in which tbe English were favoured by a storm, which drove the Spaniards
upon the coast of Zealand; many of their vessels were taken, a great number beaten to pieces upon the rocks and sand-banks, and only fifty ships with about 6000 men of all this prodigious armament returned to Spain. When intelligence of this great national misfortune arrived at Madrid, the behaviour of Philip upon that occasion
deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant-general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject (the Earl of Leicester); not doubting, by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the ne-a, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."
was, it must be
owned, truly magnanimous. “ God's holy will be done,” said he: “ I thought myself a match for the power of England, but I did not pretend to fight against the elements." Beautiful, just, and moral is the short reflection of Bentivoglio upon this signal catastrophe. “Such,"
was the fate of the memorable armada of Spain, which threatened the demolition of the power of England: few enterprises were ever more deeply weighed, few preceded by more immense preparations, and none perhaps ever attended with a more unfortunate issue. How vain and fallacious are the best-concerted schemes of man ! Thus often the Divine Providence, in the wisdom of his impenetrable decrees, has determined the fate of an enterprise quite contrary to the presumptuous expectations of human foresight *.
Philip, who had always several projects on foot at the same time (and perhaps this was the greatest error of his policy), was meditating at once the invasion and conquest of England, the reduction of the Netherlands, and the dismemberment of the kingdom of France. We have seen the issue of the first of these projects: the second, though not equally disastrous, fell equally short of his aim; and in the last, he did no more than foment disturbances which civil discord had already excited, and which in the end procured to him no advantage whatever. Every prospect of his ambition in France was demolished by a single stroke, the conversion of Henry IV. to the catholic religion. The character of Philip II. was that of a turbulent and most ambitious spirit: his was a
* Bentivoglio Guerra di Fiandra, lib. iv.
crafty system of policy, in which there was nothing either great or generous.
He was a man fitted to harass and embroil Europe, without that soundness of judgment even to turn the distresses which he occasioned to his substantial advantage. In his own kingdoms he was a cruel, a gloomy, and an inhuman tyrant; in his family, a harsh and suspicious master, a barbarous husband, and an unnatural father. In the last of these characters, he signalised himself by the murder of his queen and of his son the unfortunate Don Carlos, whose fate, according to the common accounts, is so extraordinary as to wear the air of a romance, though the truth of the principal facts has never been disputed. There is nothing improbable in the circumstance that this unfortunate prince should conceive an involuntary passion for his mother-in-law, a beautiful princess of equal age with himself, or that she, who could have no affection for a husband of Philip's disposition, should feel a similar attachment. Popular belief does justice to these ill-fated lovers in denying that they ever had a more guilty connexion. A disappointed female favourite, for whom Carlos had formerly professed a partial affection, is said from jealousy and revenge, to have discovered to Philip their correspondence. He seized on the prince's papers, among which, it is said, were found some passionate letters from the queen, as well as a treasonable correspondence with the Stadtholder to dethrone his father. As these transactions were veiled in the most profound secrecy, which none of the Spanish historians have ever attempted to penetrate, it is not known whether Don Carlos underwent a trial for his crimes, or was put to death by the royal mandate alone. It is said that he had the choice of his death, and that his veins being opened, he died in the bath, while he held in his hand the picture of his mother-in-law Elizabeth. This unhappy princess, then with child by her husband, to whose bed she had never been unfaithful, was soon after poisoned by a medicine which she took at the command of the tyrant himself. These atrocious facts have never, it is true, been verified by authentic evidence ; but it is equally true that these accusations were brought against Philip by the prince of Orange * in the face of all Europe, and that they were never refuted.
STATE OF FRANCE IN THE END OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY :
Religious Contentions Conspiracy of Amboise_Death of Francis II.-Charles IX.-Massacre of St. Bartholomew Henry III.-League of Peronne—Assassination of Henry III.—Henry of Navarre abjures the Protestant Faith, and is crowned in 1594—State of France-Character of Henry IV.-His Assassination in 1610.
While the Spanish monarchy was possessed of so high a degree of power under Philip II. as to alarm all Europe, France was in a declining situation, divided into factions, embroiled with civil wars, and torn to pieces both by its own subjects and the ambitious designs of its neighbours. These distresses arose from religious differences, from the want of good laws, and the mal-administration of its sovereigns.
The doctrine of the reformed religion had made considerable progress in some of the provinces of France, and the persecution of the Calvinists had contributed greatly to the propagation of their opinions. The reign of Henry II., and the jealousy of his catholic clergy, bad raised such a spirit of persecution, as to drive those unhappy men, who would otherwise have been good subjects, into an open rebellion.
The death of Henry II., and the accession of Francis II., was the era of those civil commotions